What is the best and quickest scratches treatment?

I’ve been using regular dawn for scrub one to get old ointment and scabs off. Then scrubbing with medicated shampoo. Then creams. I still got crud here! Argh!

Yeah this dawn is much different than the others. I was using regular dawn for a bit but obviously that wasn’t really working on her. Scratches creams work but messy.

On the upside, my plain chestnut has chrome now with all the desirin :rofl::rofl::rofl:

I’ll try the pink dawn if I can find any. I know what one you are talking about as I like that one best for my kitchen!

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I wouldn’t think it would take long ( a few weeks maybe). Years ago my old man would get terrible rain rot on his neck in the spring or times when it was rain/humid and warm… I started him on Omega Horseshine and this seemed to clear the issue up for him. If I tried to take him off of it because I felt he no longer needed it, voila the skin issues would return. The mixture of desitin, triple antibiotic, anti fungal and hydrocortisone (or dex if you can get it from the vet) has worked better for me than any other expensive concoction you can buy.

OHS is lightly fortified and does not have the levels of copper and zinc that most horses need and I no longer feed it… it’s SO much cheaper to get whole flax from my local mill. I grind it before feeding and I also supplement with poly copper/poly zinc. None of my herd is plagued with skin issues and I never worry about rainrot or scratches. How much copper/zinc is he currently getting daily?

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I may give it a bit more time. I just started him on the triple crown ground flax a couple of weeks ago. He gets a Cu Zn supp and vit E on top of his 10 lbs of triple crown Senior and has been getting that for some time now. Bless this guys heart I dunno how long he’s had these scratches. He came to me that way in April (in addition to being skinny and with loose manure). He gets rain rot on his back and cannon bones too. Poor old fellow.

I’m doing the witch brew you describe currently and will see if it yields better results. If I don’t see improvement by Thursday I’m getting SMZs.

Thanks so much for taking the time to reply! :slight_smile:

If that doesn’t help, it might be a good idea to get a skin scraping to see what you’re dealing with before trying the SMZ’s. How much copper and zinc is he currently getting?

if he was in poor shape when he came to you, it might also be a good idea to treat for stomach ulcers… since a healthy gut is important for a healthy immune system, that might also be something to consider.

320 mg copper and 960 mg zinc (as copper sulfate and Zinpro 40) plus whatever is in the TCS

I was only supplementing at half the above rate, but doubled to current dosage about a week ago.

I live in a notoriously high iron area. So figured doubling up was appropriate since I wasn’t seeing results. I may try a different form of copper and zinc, though I’ve been using my current products for years w good results.

I’m beginning to suspect horse has something off kilter in his gut. The TCS has a good gut support package, but I added additional pro bios for a while and saw improvement in the loose manure department. I also did an Outlast trial, while he was on a bit of Bute waiting for his hoof boots to come in, and continued the Outlast until I had fed out the 40 lbs bag. I didn’t note any changes but considered that a win as he had the Bute and I was worried it would have a negative impact on his tummy.

He came with crap hooves and lameness issues too. Fun times.

I’m gonna go research selling a kidney now so I can afford this horse’s vet work up :sweat_smile:

Ugh… yes… :sweat:

A round of OTC Nexium might not be a bad idea… it’s cheap and worked great for the 2 horses I’ve treated.

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I used Equate ( wal -mart brand) Athletes Foot Creme on what I “assumed” was a case of scratches on my daughters older mare. It was swollen, hot, crusty, scruffy hair, fungus like feeling on her fetlock down to the hoof / heel area.

I washed it to gently remove the loose hair and then just slathered the cream on morning and evening. In under a week it was gone. Whatever she had it worked and has not returned.


Just chiming in, in case I can help.

I agree with the suggestion to get a skin scraping done (even though I had two done on my horse and it wound up not helping much in terms of an actual solution for us…it does help to identify what you are dealing with and potentially save you time and money in finding a solution that works for your situation).

My horse blew up with scratches that we battled for a year and a half. This was not your normal casual case lol. I moved to a new barn toward the end of that timeframe, and someone actually asked if he’d put his legs through a wire fence – that’s how gnarly they were. And I am not one that doesn’t stay on top of things, either, I just couldn’t get a foothold with this stuff. It was awful.

I really think there is some unidentified issue with my horse’s immune system, but he also can be a worrier and was stressed at our older barn. He is now much happier and better-fed, which I believe contributed to his healing process.

We wound up having to put him on a course of Naxcel. Also hit him with SMZs. That helped me start to get ahead of the scratches so we could make some real progress.
We also treated with laser therapy, both directly on the effected area and on his lymphatic system. I do think that helped…but I’m sure you’d rather avoid that if possible. :slight_smile:

As far as topically, I’ll just share the routine for anyone it helps:

  1. Clip hair on legs and keep clipped
  2. Scrub legs every 2-3 days with antibacterial and antifungal shampoos, removing any scabs that are willing to come off fairly easily (if they aren’t, don’t force it). Let soap sit on legs for 10ish minutes before rinsing thoroughly.
  3. Dry COMPLETELY, but try not to get too rough with the towel. You don’t want to damage the skin further and allow more bacteria in that way
  4. Apply ointment liberally (recipe below – it’s basically what BoyleHeightsKid was talking about). That ointment is intended to sit on the legs for a few days, until the next scrubbing date. It’s a fine balance between keeping the leg clean but not getting it wet too often. Letting the ointment sit should help loosen the scabs so you can get them off. But it will look gross as dirt sits on top of the ointment.

Scratches ointment (we call it my horse’s leg magic):
4oz Desitin ointment
3-4oz Furacin
1oz Desinex athelete’s foot powder or cream (the recipe I was given says do not substitute – I think I did, though, because I couldn’t find the brand. Whatever. Just make sure the active ingredient and the amounts match. lol)
1oz of 1/2% hydrocortisone cream or 1/2oz 1%
Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container.
Wear gloves and rub in well to the affected and surrounding area.

Now that I’m looking at the instructions I was sent with the recipe, it differs a bit from what I did, so here it is:
“repeat every 2 days for 1 week. After 1 week, wash the area well with a non-irritating soap such as Ivory. If scabs are loose remove them. Repeat as necessary until skin is healed. it may take 2-3 weeks” I just couldn’t leave his legs totally unwashed that long, because they looked so dirty to me with all of the dust that was attracted to the ointment.

I still keep a batch of that ointment ready and apply any time I see anything that resembles a scab. His legs look beautiful at the moment, though the hair did take time to grow back normally.

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Aside from fixing diet issues, my go to for everything is chlorhexidine scrub. Kills bacteria and fungus. Effective on scratches, rainrot, and wounds. Doesn’t sting. Doesn’t kill tender new tissue. I use it daily, as stated by others scrub gently with fingertips but do not pick! Let scabs come off when ready. #1 problem I encounter treating scratches are owners who pick and scrub aggressively, irritating the area and creating open sores for more bacteria to infiltrate. Mild cases resolve in about 4-5 days, severe cases in about 10-14 days.

I’ve even treated mares out in the field, too far to bring in to the wash stall. (Not during mud season.) At morning feed, squirt 20ccs of chlorhex scrub on the pasterns, lather with fingertips, and leave it. Wet dewy grass will “rinse” it off. Cleared them up in a week.


If a topical is not dramatically helping the scratches after 7-10 days, switch to something else. For my horse, I generally switch between a mixture of Fura + 30cc injectable Dex or equal parts extra strength zinc oxide, hydrocortisone, triple antibiotic ointment, and clotrimazole. Switching between the 2 different ointments for each flare up seems to help.

Adding zinc, copper, vitamin e, and probiotics to the diet helped the most, but he still gets scratches anytime his skin is disturbed with a cut, scrape, etc.

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I’m going to do a major mea culpa here and retract my grand endorsement of that pricey Equiderma scratches (zinc with chlorhexidine) stuff.

Not only did the scratches return once I stopped using my own concoction, but the inside of my mares hind leg, above her hock, blistered horribly from the Equiderma. I’m guessing it was the addition of the chlorhexidine in the paste.

I put the Equiderma there because my vet saw what looked like dermatitis, similar to the scratches, in that area. My poor mare! I felt like such a horrible mother! (She’s fine now).

My witch’s brew worked better than the Equiderma and didn’t blister sensitive skin.

So what ultimately worked:

Wash well with warm, sudsy Phisoderm shampoo and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Rinse and pat dry. Rub in Neosporin ointment. Then mix up Tinactin (or other antifungal cream) with an OTC cortisone cream; mix in Desitin (or other zinc-based diaper rash balm). Apply mixture over the entire area that’s already gooped up with the Neosporin. Strive to work it all in to the hair follicles and skin. Repeat daily.

Thus I now have a barely used jar of spendy Equiderma sitting in my tack room. :roll_eyes:

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That’s good!

Stupid scratches.

Poor Norm is somewhat better. The giant scabs on the back of his pasterns finally came off.

I’m doing witchbrew of furazone, desitin, Nasacort, and lotrimin applied every day for a week or so now and seems to be improving. I’m not washing every day.

Alas, he tried to rip the heel bulb off his left front so I’m wrapping his hoof. Again.


I’m glad Norm is better! :blue_heart:

My little mare was so sore from the scratches that she held her hind leg up like it was broken.

The entire episode started when she had some kind of weird photosensitivity reaction to something she ate. I think it was something odd, green and new that sprung up in the pasture. First all four legs swelled up then she broke out wherever she had exposed pink skin in terrible scabby blisters. About a week later and $400 in a vet bill and she was almost well. But left with the case of scratches on one hind leg. sigh

Hoping it’s all a bad memory now!

My goodness! What a disaster for your girl. Must have been uncomfortable for her and scary for you!

Hoping that’s all behind her now.

Norm came in April with scary thick scabs from mid fetlock to the coronet band all the way around on both hind legs. Random rain rot in multiple other places. Underweight. Lame. Loose manure. With bad teeth. And intermittent swelling in one hind leg (honestly think that was related to the scratches being so out of control).

I think he wasn’t doing well in his previous retirement field board situation. Maybe just a bit higher maintenance than that situation provided.

He’s gaining in all categories now, though slower gains than I would like. I saw him canter for the first time about a week ago out in the paddock. I figure that’s a good sign.

Yikes, poor fella. Glad he’s on the mend! I’m sure he’s happier now. My horse also had intermittent swelling in his legs while we were dealing with the scratches being out of control. In fact, the swelling continued even after I considered things resolved – it only stopped entirely within the last 3 or 4 months. Sigh. Horses.

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Mine is prone to scratches just above the heel bulb on her white leg. I have done the scrub with chlorhexidine, dry off the area with a towel, then layer on antifungal, antibiotic, cortisone, and diaper rash creams. It’s a lot, especially when I could not do it every day. Barn help would do it for me, but not as carefully. Last spring’s case took about 6 to 8 weeks to heal.

This year, I think I caught it early enough that a simplified regimen worked fine. About 3 weeks ago she had 2 little scabs in the usual spot. I left out the chlorhexidine wash because that was the biggest time-sink, and just brushed the area gently and layered on antifungal, cortisone, and diaper rash creams. 2 weeks later it’s completely cured.

Thank you!

I’m glad to hear I’m not crazy for thinking the swelling might be related to the scratches.

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My horse got scratches on her white foot’s fetlock area, I don’t know how prone she is as this is the first summer that I’ve owned her but the thing that worked the best was washing the area with betadine, letting it dry, then applying a mixture of antifungal athlete’s foot cream, triple antibiotic ointment, desitin and hydrocortisone, like many others on here tried.

However, after doing all that for a few days, the skin was still looking kinda irritated and pink, so I switched to the Coat Defense trouble spot drying paste which seemed to actually heal the skin once the infection was gone. I also changed her supplements and she is getting more copper and zinc now so I kinda think that might be helping too. Now i’m just switching off applying the Coat Defense paste / equiderma lotion like every few days just as a preventative and keeping a very close eye on that area!

I kind of don’t get why the magical ointment mixture works… like is it a fungus or a bacteria? Why do we need both? Or is it just that killing all the bacteria can lead to more fungus and vice versa so we use both to keep a balance?

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